Are delays, frustration the norm in getting compensation?
Insurance Helpline With Cedric Stephens
Question: I was involved in an accident on Monday, March 26, 2012, local government election day. Since then I have been getting the runaround. I was driving my 1991 Toyota Corolla out of a polling station at the Ewarton Primary School. The car in front of mine, a 1998 Silver Toyota Hilux, stopped suddenly. The driver, who was responding to shouts from persons on the premises, reversed into my car. Its bonnet and right headlight were damaged. My car was stationary at the point of impact and I sounded the horn when I saw what was about to happen. None of my four passengers was injured. When the other driver came out I realised that he was under the influence of alcohol. Loud music was being played in the vehicle. He admitted he was at fault and that he did not see my vehicle. I filed reports with a female constable at the nearby police station and with my insurers after he tried to send me to his mechanic. Two days later, an assessor took photographs of the car and a copy of my repairer's estimate. I sent a copy of the police report to my insurers a few weeks later. The third party insurers have refused to pay. They say that they have done so because the other driver told them that my vehicle ran into his. Can you please help me?
- T.R., Ewarton, St Catherine.
HELPLINE: In an article in this newspaper headlined 'Government should settle transport debt,' the Rev Devon Dick, PhD, says: "The Government of Jamaica and its agents have developed a reputation of not paying timely awards when they (were) at fault." He cited the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC). One of its buses, whose driver was at fault, hit a vehicle owned by one of the pastor's parishioners. No information was given about the date of the collision and liability was not contested. However, "payments have been very difficult". The JUTC has only made one. It represents one-sixth of the agreed amount. Reading between the lines, the company has not said anything about the remaining five-sixths.
frustrated OUT of compensation
Obtaining fair and adequate compensation without undue delay from vehicle owners that cause collisions is not limited to "the Government of Jamaica and its agencies". In the same article, the Rev Dr Dick provides details about another mishap. This one occurred on Shortwood Road in St Andrew. The at-fault driver - he operated an articulated vehicle, which is commonly referred to as a trailer - "apologised and agreed to settle without recourse to the insurance companies". On the following day, however, company management told the other party "that the small amount of money would have to be referred to the insurance company". The pastor concluded that that action "was obviously meant to frustrate ... (and) that it is sad when persons are frustrated out of getting legitimate compensation".
The pastor is absolutely correct. The third party's actions and those of his insurers are designed to frustrate you. It is very clear that their aims are similar: to save money. The hard time that you are getting is intended to lead you to abandon the claim.
Motor insurers handle thousands of claims each year. Their tools of trade are many. They include reports from assessors, adjusters, the police and other professionals, photographs, repairer's estimates, diagrams, statements from drivers and witnesses, Google Maps, legal and insurance reference books, the laws of Jamaica, the Internet and, of course, their contracts (aka policies), to name a few. Some of these sources of information can often support or refute what a driver said about an accident and provide information about who was at fault. In short, insurers do not have to rely solely on a driver's statement to determine liability.
Insurance contracts give insurers absolute rights on how claims are settled. This means that if a policyholder lied to his/her insurer about how an accident took place, the company can, if it wishes, pay the third party's claim without reference to the policyholder.
My suspicion is that a careful examination of the assessor's photographs of your vehicle, the assessor's and the police reports, the repair estimate as well as statements from your passengers should be sufficient to counter the third party's allegation. It is also possible that the person who handled your claim considers it small and unimportant. It is simply another of the scores of files he/she has to deal with each day.
You have two choices. One, the easier, is to give up and fund the repairs from your own resources. The second will be more difficult. Ask your insurers for a "deal direct" letter. Make an appointment with an official of the third party insurer. Prepare for the meeting. Your goal should be persuade them that the reason they gave for denying your claim does not make any sense. It should be paid in full.
Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. firstname.lastname@example.org SMS/text message at 812-7233